Imbibing the right attitude and the skills required to work in teams is an important part of education. In college curriculum, besides knowledge testing through examinations, group projects and presentations form a core part of the evaluation process. These may either have two individuals working together or groups of four to five or more members. Such work demands sharing mental space and communicating at multiple levels.
The initial enthusiasm` to work together begins to fade as one gains some experience of working in groups. It isn’t uncommon to find students expressing their disillusionment with group projects. But, while working alone may allow the autonomy to shape one’s work according to one’s will, it does not expose one to multiple perspectives which are necessary for growth.
K. Seshadrinathan, adjunct faculty member, Department of Management Studies, University of Madras, points out the significance of group work in the development of a student’s personality. “In a group, a few members may be highly involved, a few others may be less involved and play supporting roles, yet others may be just observers. An important purpose of assigning group projects is to help and motivate shy individuals overcome their inhibitions and interact with and learn from each other,” he says. But several times, as many students would testify, things take a sour turn.
Strike a balance
Differing motivations, commitment levels and temperaments of individual members give rise to different problems. The group may have lethargic members who are perceived as taking a free ride on others’ efforts. Then there may be those who try to do the entire work by themselves and consider the presence of others in the team to be a mere formality. Neither of these two extremes is right for the smooth functioning of the team. “What we have observed over a period of time is that people build several barriers within themselves and in relation to others.